Upfront of Week 17, I am submitting my awards poll for the 2018 NFL season. As I do yearly right here on ESPN.com, I filed the same poll after Week Four after which once more after Week 9, so we are able to all see simply how a lot the league has progressed over the previous three months. Keep in mind when Calvin Ridley was a viable Offensive Rookie of the 12 months candidate?

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I reserve the precise to change my thoughts if somebody has a very spectacular or horrific efficiency in Week 17, however generally, I really feel assured about these selections impartial of what occurs this Sunday. In making my picks, I’ve tried to emulate how the voters often take into consideration these official awards, however I’ve additionally used my very own observations and evaluation to inform my selections. In some circumstances, candidates who may be critical opponents for an award do not maintain a lot curiosity for me. I’ve tried to clarify why that is the case the place vital. Let’s start by honoring the celebrities of the sidelines:

Bounce to an award:
COY | CPOY | DROY | OROY | DPOY | OPOY | MVP

Coach of the 12 months

After Week Four: Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans
After Week 9: Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

Third: Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers. The 2-pointer to win over the Chiefs in Week 15 was the ultimate piece of luggage Lynn had to shed in turning across the Chargers’ tradition. Every little thing we thought concerning the outdated Chargers — they lose to unhealthy groups, they blow seemingly unassailable leads with unhealthy choices, Philip Rivers melts down as soon as a month, the kicking recreation is one thing shut to Charlie Brown LARPing — appears to be gone. Heck, Michael Badgley is 15-of-16 on discipline objectives since taking up for Caleb Sturgis. This can be a totally different staff now, and Lynn deserves numerous credit score for turning issues round after beginning Zero-Four final season. The Chargers have gone 20-7 since.

Second: Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. I do know we take Payton as a right provided that the Saints have been aggressive for a lot of the previous decade, however New Orleans has won 13 of its previous 14 video games and can enter the postseason with the league’s greatest document. The Saints are first in level differential (by 43 factors!) and stand because the league’s most dominant staff by ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index.

Whereas possibly you would have claimed in years previous that the Saints’ success was about using Drew Brees, Payton’s protection held opposing offenses to a median of 12.three factors per recreation over a six-game stretch from Weeks 10-15, whereas Brees and the offense struggled for consistency. We’re used to the Saints being good, however that is within the pantheon of really nice Saints groups alongside the Tremendous Bowl winners of 2009 and the 2011 staff that fell to the 49ers in a legendary postseason battle.

Matt Nagy and the Bears have already won the NFC North, they usually may nonetheless get a first-round bye within the playoffs. AP Picture/David Banks

First: Nagy. It is arduous to overstate what Nagy has completed in his first season on the helm with Mitchell Trubisky & Co. in Chicago. The previous Chiefs offensive coordinator was solely a playcaller for just a few weeks in Kansas Metropolis, however he has been sensible in creating straightforward throws for his younger quarterback whereas getting essentially the most out of gamers similar to Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel. The Chicago offense nonetheless is not nice — it heads into Week 17 rating 22nd in DVOA — however all this protection wanted was a reliable offense on the opposite aspect of the ball to win 10 video games, and the Bears may make it to 12 in the event that they beat the Vikings on Sunday.

This can be a second during which I want there have been additionally a Coordinator of the 12 months award, as a result of I believe you would break up issues between these prime two in both path. Need to identify Nagy as Coach of the 12 months and Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen as Coordinator of the 12 months? I am for it. Swap it and push Payton up to No. 1 as Coach of the 12 months and provides Chicago’s Vic Fangio the nod as prime coordinator? That may work, too.

Comeback Participant of the 12 months

After Week Four: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
After Week 9: Watt

Third: Andre Hal, S, Houston Texans. Whereas the 26-year-old Hal would not have the excessive profile of a participant like Adrian Peterson, who finishes in fourth right here, it is downright unimaginable that the Texans defensive again was being handled for Hodgkin lymphoma in September and is taking part in 31 defensive snaps per recreation in December. With all due respect to gamers making their method again from muscular accidents and damaged bones, all of us ought to be awed by Hal taking significant snaps for what’s about to be a playoff staff simply months after most cancers remedy.

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2 Associated

Second: Watt. I am going to be mentioning Watt extra later on this column, so I’ve to save a few of my information on him for different awards. Let me say this: When Watt failed to knock down Nick Foles in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, it was the primary time he went all recreation with out taking down an opposing quarterback since Week 2. He has recorded at the very least one deal with for loss in 13 of the previous 14 video games and is tied for the league lead with six compelled fumbles. Guys simply do not do that after primarily two years within the wilderness.

First: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts. It is price remembering that this time final yr, Luck was returning from greater than a month within the Netherlands, present process remedy for a shoulder damage with no timetable for return. Each member of the Colts group had to be terrified that they weren’t going to see the Luck who carried middling groups to the playoffs ever once more.

The Colts aren’t actually seeing the outdated Luck, to be trustworthy; they’re seeing a barely higher model of the quarterback from 2014. Luck is narrowly posting one of the best passer ranking of his profession, and whereas he isn’t throwing the ball downfield as ceaselessly, Frank Reich has a man who accomplished 59.2 p.c of his passes earlier than the shoulder damage hitting on 67.2 p.c of his throws this season. Most significantly, throughout Indy’s Eight-1 stretch to Sunday’s play-in recreation towards the Titans, Luck has been knocked down solely 32 occasions. That may have taken a month within the outdated days. Fortunately, the following time Luck goes to Europe, it is going to be on trip.

Defensive Rookie of the 12 months

After Week Four: Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts
After Week 9: Leonard

Earlier than I say something, that is an superior crop of younger defensive expertise. Derwin James and Denzel Ward are going to the Professional Bowl, however you would have despatched 5 rookies from this class to Orlando with out stretching. There isn’t any method to do a prime three right here with out getting a number of fan bases offended. First, there is a second tier of promising linebackers in guys similar to Leighton Vander Esch, Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds who can be viable winners most years and easily miss out due to the expertise at their very own place, not to mention at scarcer and extra worthwhile spots within the lineup.

Then, in going by way of the 4 prime candidates left, the man I truly ended up reducing from the listing is the Professional Bowler. Ward has been glorious as a rookie cornerback for the Browns, however he has missed two video games, sat out all however seven snaps towards the Chiefs and doubtless can be out in Week 17 after struggling his second concussion of the season. Ward in all probability will miss what quantities to 1 / 4 of the season by way of accidents, and whereas he has been impactful when wholesome, that slim margin is sufficient to push him off the poll for me.

I discover it shut to unattainable to select between the three gamers I’ve left. You can rank them in any order from three to 1, and I might discover it arduous to argue towards putting them in any order or permutation.

Third: Bradley Chubb, LB, Denver Broncos. Chubb has been phenomenal. He has 5 extra sacks than another rookie and 4 tackles for loss towards the run. The NC State product has probably the most bodily dominant performs of the season on tape, during which he pushes D.J. Humphries backward with one arm earlier than accelerating to sack Josh Rosen. He is an absolute monster.

On the similar time, if I am poking holes in any of those three finalists’ résumés, it is best to discover the weak spots with Chubb. He is approaching Week 17 with 12 sacks however simply 20 knockdowns, so he hasn’t been fairly as impactful as your typical 12-sack rusher. Chubb has spent his rookie season taking part in throughout from Von Miller, which suggests he avoids common double-teams. These 12 sacks have come on 13 performs (by advantage of two half-sacks), and on these snaps, I might characterize 5 of the takedowns as protection sacks, with a sixth approaching a play during which the 49ers tried to pull their playside guard to block Chubb on the blind aspect, which ought to be thought of an act of aggression by Kyle Shanahan towards Nick Mullens. In case you’re voting for Chubb, you are voting for that sack whole, and I believe the sack whole barely mischaracterizes his impression this season.

Bradley Chubb has been one of many league’s greatest pass-rushers in his first professional season. Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire

Second: Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers. Even I am mad at myself for placing James second. What else may James do to win Defensive Rookie of the 12 months? He leads all safeties with 15.5 disrupted dropbacks, together with three interceptions and three.5 sacks. The Florida State product has given former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley a supercharged Kam Chancellor. The Legion of Growth member did not have the pure pace to maintain up in protection towards receiving threats, which is why groups just like the Patriots would flip to their tight ends and goal Chancellor in protection after they wanted to transfer the ball. James is a Four.47 40 man at 215 kilos.

I haven’t got a criticism of James. The one factor separating him from the highest spot is the expertise round him in Los Angeles. He has Professional Bowl expertise creating strain alongside the defensive position in Joey Bosa (when wholesome) and Melvin Ingram, plus top-tier cornerback Casey Hayward within the secondary. I do not know that you may say the identical factor for the No. 1 decide …

First: Leonard. I do not suppose Leonard will win the actual award, however I can not justify placing anybody else first. What number of defensive gamers on the Colts are you able to even identify? Leonard is the beating coronary heart of Matt Eberflus’ protection, which may be the largest shock on that aspect of the ball in soccer at 12th in defensive DVOA. The one argument I could make towards Leonard is that the second-round decide missed a recreation with an ankle damage, with the Colts subsequently permitting 38 factors to the Patriots.

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The Indy linebacker leads the NFL with a staggering 155 tackles, 23 greater than another participant. There might be some house cooking in deal with statistics, however in the event you have a look at strictly solo tackles, Leonard is at 107 and no different participant within the league has topped 100. It will be one factor if Leonard had been mopping up 10 yards downfield, however he has 12 tackles for loss, which is tied for second amongst non-edge speeding linebackers.

Leonard additionally has stuffed the scoresheet past tackles. At seven sacks, he has extra takedowns than any rookie moreover Chubb. Leonard has knocked away six passes, picked up an interception and compelled 4 fumbles. I do not love these type of arbitrary endpoint comparisons, however in the event you look by way of historical past for gamers with 150 or extra tackles, 5 or extra sacks and 4 or extra compelled fumbles in a season since 1990, you get Leonard and Broderick Thomas in 1991. This is hoping Leonard shines on the nationwide stage towards the Titans on Sunday night time.

Offensive Rookie of the 12 months

After Week Four: Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
After Week 9: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

There is a smaller pool of choices right here, particularly as earlier threats similar to Ridley, D.J. Moore and Kerryon Johnson have both gotten injured or light into the undercard. I believe there is a fairly clear prime three. Ordering these three may not be really easy.

Third: Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos. Earlier than struggling a season-ending wrist damage on Monday, the undrafted rookie delivered a shocking season. His workload pales compared to Barkley’s, however Lindsay averaged extra yards per carry and posted a greater success price than Barkley, all whereas taking part in behind a equally middling offensive line.

The listing of NFL rookies with 150 carries or extra who averaged extra yards per carry than Lindsay’s 5.40 mark is fairly spectacular: Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, Franco Harris, Clinton Portis and DeMarco Murray all had lengthy professional careers. As a pair of 5-foot-Eight dynamos, I just like the MJD comparability most. Lindsay would not have MJD’s thickness, however he already has proved to be a handful close to the objective line whereas concurrently retaining the pace to break massive runs. Lindsay appears to be like like one of the best again the Broncos have had since Willis McGahee.

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Michelle Beisner-Buck spends a day with Broncos rookie operating again Phillip Lindsay.

Second: Barkley. What a sophisticated participant to unpack. I do not want to inform you what Barkley is able to with the soccer in his arms, so let’s not trouble. When it comes to Barkley’s impression on the Giants, was he an amazing participant in 2018?

I believe you can also make a case for each side. He has an out of doors shot at ending the yr with 2,000 yards from scrimmage, which is spectacular for a staff with an offense that hasn’t precisely been flowing this season. He is fifth within the league with 73 first downs and has seven good points of 50 yards or extra, 4 greater than another again within the league. His effectivity numbers usually aren’t nice, however the Giants depend on Barkley to function the whole lot of their offense for stretches at a time. A hardly atypical collection for the Giants would come with a run with Barkley on first down, a display to Barkley on second down and a checkdown from Eli Manning to Barkley to hold the go rush away on third down. It will be shut to unattainable for anybody to common Four.9 yards per carry on this offense the best way that Barkley has this season.

On the similar time, Barkley’s effectivity numbers are terrible. He ranks 37th within the league in success price as a runner out of 45 qualifying backs. A lot of what he good points might be empty energy; 60.Four p.c of his carries have yielded adverse performs by ESPN’s mannequin, the 10th-most in soccer. If we outline rubbish time as possessions that begin with not more than a 5 p.c probability of ending in a victory by win expectancy, Barkley’s 288 yards from scrimmage in rubbish time is third behind Jalen Richard and Joe Mixon. I do not doubt that Barkley makes the offense higher, after all, however in 80 go makes an attempt, Manning has posted a superior completion proportion, yards per try, passer ranking and Whole QBR with Barkley on the sideline as opposed to lining up alongside the previous Penn State star.

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It is extraordinarily troublesome to make a boom-and-bust mannequin work on an annual foundation. The closest comparability when it comes to escapability for Barkley is Barry Sanders, who was equally considered an all-or-nothing again throughout his professional profession, however the numbers do not fairly maintain up. Sanders’ Lions groups ranked within the prime 5 in speeding DVOA 5 occasions throughout his 10-year profession and fell as little as 20th solely as soon as, throughout Sanders’ closing season. With Barkley taking 74 p.c of the Giants’ carries, Large Blue ranks 21st in speeding DVOA. I do not query Barkley’s expertise, and he charges forward of Lindsay on quantity and his work as a receiver, however Barkley hasn’t been constant sufficient to justify the highest spot right here.

First: Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns. I wrote at size about Mayfield throughout the rookie quarterback progress report a few weeks in the past. In brief, he has been head and shoulders above the remainder of the competitors, and that is earlier than Mayfield alternately torched the Bengals and antagonized their sideline final Sunday. Mayfield’s numbers are glorious — the primary general decide now ranks fifth within the league in passer ranking from Week 7 onward — however he is shortly approaching folk-hero standing in Cleveland. The added bonus for enjoying quarterback pushes Mayfield atop the poll for me.

Defensive Participant of the 12 months

After Week Four: Khalil Mack, LB, Chicago Bears
After Week 9: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Let’s begin by narrowing our scope. No defensive again has performed effectively sufficient to advantage important consideration right here. Xavien Howard and Kyle Fuller have gaudy interception numbers, however every has been crushed for a number of scores this season. (Interceptions are additionally much more persistently a product of quarterback play than defensive again manufacturing, as you may see from year-to-year interception charges.) Not one of the tackling machines at inside linebacker have caught out sufficient to make it into the dialogue, both.

With that out of the best way, we’re searching for edge rushers, which makes this somewhat simpler to break down. I am conserving the Chiefs’ duo of Dee Ford and Chris Jones off the listing, partially as a result of Kansas Metropolis’s run protection has been atrocious, together with the concept the Chiefs have confronted 599 go makes an attempt this season, second within the NFL behind the Browns. The Browns’ Myles Garrett additionally falls simply brief.

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Stephen A. Smith will get fired up explaining why Russell Wilson is the one NFC QB who can beat the Saints in New Orleans throughout the playoffs.

Third: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans. I sneak Watt on simply forward of Von Miller, though the 2 future Corridor of Famers may swap if Miller delivers an enormous Week 17 for the Broncos. They’re principally in a useless warmth: Watt has 14.5 sacks on 24 knockdowns with six compelled fumbles, whereas Miller has racked up 14.5 sacks on 25 knockdowns with 4 compelled fumbles. Watt has seven tackles for loss towards the run to Miller’s 4, which helps level the arrow narrowly towards the Texans star.

Second: Mack. On a snap-by-healthy-snap foundation, I do not know if any edge rusher has been extra impactful than the previous Raiders star. Mack introduced his candidacy within the first half of Week 1, when he completely terrorized the Packers in prime time, and he has usually wreaked havoc ever since. Mack has 12.5 sacks and 6 compelled fumbles, together with a stretch of 4 consecutive video games with a compelled fumble to begin the marketing campaign.

The one motive I’ve Mack second is the one midseason stretch during which he wasn’t terrifying. An ankle damage suffered towards the Dolphins in Week 6 primarily neutralized the Buffalo product for a month. Mack performed two video games towards the Dolphins and Patriots however did not look something like his normal self, failing to document a sack or hit because the Bears allowed 31 factors to Miami and 38 extra to New England. He then missed the following two video games earlier than returning to the fold with a two-sack look towards the Lions in Week 10. The Bears had been considerate in letting Mack heal whereas sitting out video games towards the lowly Payments and Jets earlier than bringing him again, however the lacking month retains Mack in second place for me.

Aaron Donald wants three sacks to tie Michael Strahan’s document of 22.5 in a season. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Picture

First: Donald. Whereas Donald’s MVP candidacy fell by the wayside after a pair of quiet video games in Weeks 14 and 15, he is nonetheless comfortably one of the best pass-rusher in soccer. His 19.5 sacks are 4 greater than another defender within the league, and his 38 knockdowns are seven forward of second-placed Fletcher Cox. Kawann Quick is the one defensive deal with within the league with extra tackles for loss towards the run, however I do not see a motive to overthink this. That is the simplest decide on my poll.

Offensive Participant of the 12 months

After Week Four: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
After Week 9: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

current historical past, I like to use this award to honor both one of the best non-quarterback or the second-best quarterback within the league, regardless that the logical factor can be for the MVP to additionally win Offensive Participant of the 12 months.

For a operating again or a receiver to win this award, they’ve to clearly separate from the pack at their place. I do not suppose there’s actually a participant who has completed that this yr. Ezekiel Elliott has assumed a large workload and topped 2,000 yards from scrimmage with a recreation to go, however he has scored solely six touchdowns. Gurley seemed to be an MVP candidate heading into the Nov. 19 showdown with the Chiefs, however he hasn’t seemed the identical since tweaking his ankle early in that contest. A knee damage will seemingly price him the ultimate two weeks of the season and stop him from racking up the cumulative totals to stand out as one of the best again within the league. Christian McCaffrey and Barkley will wrestle to obtain critical consideration by advantage of taking part in on sub-.500 groups.

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Likewise, in the event you requested 10 individuals who one of the best wideout in soccer was in 2018, you would possibly get 5 totally different solutions. Adam Thielen received off to a blazing-hot begin with eight 100-plus yard video games, however the Vikings star has averaged simply 58.6 receiving yards per contest and scored three touchdowns over the following seven contests. Julio Jones’ landing regression to the imply lastly got here, however it got here throughout the second half of a misplaced season for the Falcons. He leads all receivers by greater than 100 yards, however it will take one thing shut to a document marketing campaign for Jones to get OPOY assist on a 6-9 Falcons staff. Thomas voters would seemingly lean towards Brees and even Alvin Kamara as an alternative, whereas Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce supporters would push their votes towards Patrick Mahomes.

I believe one of the best wideout in soccer in the meanwhile is DeAndre Hopkins, however has he been so significantly better than everybody else to overcome the large hole between a receiver and a quarterback? I am going with all quarterbacks right here, so I am going to fold the OPOY dialogue in there.

Patrick Mahomes has thrown 48 landing passes and simply 11 interceptions this season. David Eulitt/Getty Pictures

Most Precious Participant

After Week Four: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas Metropolis Chiefs
After Week 9: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

We all know Mahomes and Brees are within the dialogue. It is in all probability simpler to begin eliminating passers from the pile and work our method down to a 3rd candidate, proper? Ben Baldwin went by way of the MVP candidates in the same method for The Athletic, and whereas I’ve totally different emotions, I believe eliminating quarterbacks in relative order of problem ought to lead us to the best prime three.

  • Let’s eliminate everybody who is not the quarterback of a playoff staff or who missed a number of video games with an damage, which removes the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz from the equation.

  • Ben Roethlisberger would possibly find yourself lacking the postseason after the Steelers collapsed in November, and whereas the protection has been the largest perpetrator, Roethlisberger deserves loads of the blame. He has struggled mightily on deep throws for a full month now, together with two lengthy misses in a single recreation towards the Broncos. Over the previous 5 weeks, Roethlisberger has had 11 deep passes with an anticipated completion proportion of 50 p.c or extra, per the NFL’s Subsequent Gen Stats. Whereas the numbers would have anticipated Roethlisberger to rack up 6.6 completions on these throws, he has 5 completions and two interceptions. With 4 shut losses over that time-frame, another massive completion would possibly very effectively have made the distinction.

  • Jared Goff was an MVP candidate after throwing 5 landing passes in an excellent efficiency towards the Vikings on nationwide tv, however Goff has been extraordinary since Week Four. Over the previous 11 video games, Goff has posted a passer ranking of 90.2 and a Whole QBR of 56.Four, which sandwiches him between Nick Mullens and Eli Manning over that very same time-frame. Perhaps Cooper Kupp ought to be an MVP candidate.

  • Tom Brady won MVP final season and has fallen off over the second half of the season, neither of which bodes effectively. The voters draw back from back-to-back winners and do not reward gamers who declined from the earlier yr, even when that new stage of play is completely positive. By era-adjusted stats, Brady’s 11 interceptions are driving his worst interception price since 2004.

  • That is the cutoff the place I believe everybody at the very least may obtain affordable MVP consideration. My subsequent particular person off is Russell Wilson, and it is strictly due to quantity. Wilson has thrown solely 406 passes this season, the fewest by a substantial margin of any quarterback to make 15 begins. Deshaun Watson is the second-most rare passer in that group, and he is at 470 makes an attempt. The typical quarterback in that group has thrown 531 passes thus far, which is an additional 30 p.c on prime of Wilson’s whole. If Wilson had been making up for that with important run quantity, it will be price contemplating, however he’s on tempo to end with 69 carries this season, down from a median of 101.2 rush makes an attempt throughout Wilson’s 5 wholesome campaigns as a professional. Wilson additionally has fumbled 10 occasions and brought sacks on 10 p.c of his dropbacks. Whereas he has been an environment friendly passer and managed to rating on greater than Eight p.c of his go makes an attempt, he would wish to be essentially the most environment friendly passer within the league to make up for the shortage of quantity. The Seahawks have been efficient with their plan of operating the soccer, however they common 6.9 yards per dropback and Four.Eight yards per carry. All these lacking go makes an attempt are producing much less efficient offensive snaps.

  • Deshaun Watson has shouldered extra of the load than Wilson, and the second-year quarterback has minimize his interception price in half from his 2017 mark of three.9 p.c, however he lacks Wilson’s gaudy landing whole (34) and has taken sacks at a good greater price (10.6 p.c). Watson has led 5 fourth-quarter comebacks, however these comebacks have come towards the Colts, Payments, Broncos, Washington and Jets, a bunch that is not precisely going to excite the voters. And after three consecutive 300-yard video games early within the season, Watson failed to submit a single 300-yarder over a nine-week span earlier than getting to 339 in final week’s loss to the Eagles. Yardage totals aren’t the whole lot, however the Texans are 21st in offensive DVOA this season. Watson’s offense carried the staff throughout that white-hot stretch in 2017, however the Texans have ridden their protection to the playoffs this season.

  • Andrew Luck is the final minimize, regardless of his quantity as a passer and regular success over the course of this marketing campaign, Jaguars recreation apart. Keep in mind the effectivity vs. quantity debate I discussed with Wilson a second in the past? Luck has thrown 604 passes and averaged 7.1 yards per try. Philip Rivers has thrown solely 484 passes, practically 20 p.c lower than Luck’s whole, however he is averaging Eight.5 yards per try, the third-highest mark within the league behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mahomes. While you think about interceptions and sacks with adjusted internet yards per try (ANY/A), Rivers is fourth within the league and Luck is 14th.

It is sufficient for me to hold Luck on the outskirts of the race. We’re left with Rivers, Mahomes and Brees. Let’s check out their stats:

QB Cmp Att Cmp% Yds Y/Att TD INT Ranking QBR ANY/A
Brees 364 489 74.Four% three,992 Eight.2 32 5 115.7 81.2 Eight.5
Mahomes 369 556 66.Four% Four,816 Eight.7 48 11 114.Zero 81.5 Eight.Eight
Rivers 333 484 68.Eight% Four,132 Eight.5 31 10 107.7 70.Eight 7.9

It is fairly straightforward to get rid of Rivers, if solely as a result of Brees has been a simpler model of the identical passer. Neither quarterback has performed a very brutal schedule, though Brees has confronted the third-easiest schedule within the league, whereas Rivers is available in at 10th best. (Mahomes is in because the eighth hardest.) I do not see any argument for shifting Rivers up previous three, so he’ll settle there.

All that leaves us, unsurprisingly, with Brees vs. Mahomes. After I selected Brees in Week 9, I identified that Mahomes’ enormous benefit in touchdowns was moderately overcome by different components of Brees’ recreation. These variations aren’t fairly as important for Brees after a winter droop. They’ve every thrown 4 interceptions over the previous seven video games. Brees is probably going to set the completion proportion document by the top of the season, however it will likely be by 2.Four factors as opposed to the three.9 p.c mark of midseason. Mahomes’ supporting solid is not as spectacular with Kareem Hunt out of soccer and Sammy Watkins largely unavailable.

In case you’re searching for anecdotal heroics, Brees wins out. He has led six fourth-quarter comeback victories this season, essentially the most in soccer. The listing contains victories over the Ravens and Steelers, together with a win over the Rams after Los Angeles tied issues up at 35-35 within the fourth quarter. Mahomes has simply two such wins, and prime-time losses to the Rams, Patriots and Chargers would possibly damage his possibilities. I would not take these points significantly myself — keep in mind that Mahomes truly led the Chiefs again into fourth-quarter comeback leads towards the Patriots and Rams, just for his protection to subsequently blow the lead.

Drew Brees, who turns 40 in January, has by no means won NFL MVP. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports activities

The factor I hold coming again to in a really tight race is what occurred throughout Brees’ three-game slide after Thanksgiving. He posted a passer ranking of simply 77.Zero over that three-game run, averaging simply 5.6 yards per try with extra interceptions (three) than passing touchdowns (two). Brees did not get a ton of assist from his receivers, with Tommylee Lewis famously fumbling the ball into the top zone for a touchback towards the Panthers. The Saints went 2-1 in that stretch, and that was largely by the grace of their protection.

There is no such thing as a such three-game stretch and no bailout protection for Mahomes, whose worst three-game run got here in October and included a passer ranking of 87.1. He additionally has toned down the giveaways; after throwing an interception in 5 consecutive video games, Mahomes has gone with out an interception in 4 of his previous six contests. He has posted just one passer ranking underneath 100 over the previous 10 video games, and it was towards the Ravens, who’ve among the finest go defenses within the league.

The case for Brees is naiveté. Mahomes is in his first season as a starter at this stage. He is working with a mad genius in Andy Reid, who will (pretty or unfairly) get extra credit score for Mahomes’ success than Payton will for Brees’. Mahomes has 11 interceptions and 9 fumbles this season. Brees, who has 5 of every, has half the turnover price. Brees has thrown shorter passes within the absence of Terron Armstead, however he stays correct. While you take away display passes from each gamers’ stats, Mahomes is finishing 62.5 p.c of his passes whereas averaging Eight.33 yards per try. Brees is averaging an equivalent quantity, however whereas finishing 72.2 p.c of his throws.

I discover the opposite aspect of this argument extra compelling. Mahomes has been as productive as Brees and completed it whereas assuming about 13 p.c extra passing quantity. (That distinction may rise even additional if the Saints sit Brees for Teddy Bridgewater for some or all of their meaningless Week 17 recreation on Sunday.) A stat like ANY/A incorporates interceptions, weights them appropriately and nonetheless leaves Mahomes narrowly forward. He additionally has added extra manufacturing as a runner than Brees, though the latter stays a menace on his patented pop-up sneak.

By the top of Sunday, Mahomes might be going to end his first season as a starter with 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. The one man to try this was Peyton Manning in 2013, and he took house 49 of the 50 MVP votes. I do not suppose Mahomes will win in a landslide, however I believe Brees’ three-week dip was sufficient to put the Chiefs star within the driver’s seat. Until Mahomes completely craters in Week 17, he is my decide to win MVP. In what may be his closing season, Brees will accept second and the Offensive Participant of the 12 months nod.

Third: Rivers
Second: Brees
First: Mahomes



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